Monday, November 7, 2011

Altar Of Plagues - Mammal

Pretentious titles aside, I'm sure by now some of you have heard of Altar Of Plagues, a premier black metal band of the "Cascadian" (post) variety. Their previous release White Tomb is merely an exercise in the style, while Mammal nearly perfects it. I feel like a track by track review is appropriate for this album, so I'll briefly cover each.

Oceanic. This word is often applied to post metal or post rock bands with an immense, layered sound. One that is often tranquil and peaceful, yet reminiscent and emotional. Mammal is an album of oceanic proportions, but this ocean is turbulent, brooding, dark, and filled with the souls of all living things. The eighteen-minute opener "Neptune Is Dead" exemplifies these aspects perfectly and with a finesse many of the more aggressive cascadian black metal bands lack. Overarching guitar leads swirl while dense, droning riffs drag you into the depths of the sea Altar Of Plagues creates. "Neptune Is Dead" also has the classic post metal "feel" to it, where the song builds to various climaxes throughout all eighteen minutes, and in my opinion it is the best song Altar Of Plagues has ever composed.

"Feather And Bone" is a bit less subtle and a bit more relentless. Pounding double bass, immense effects, and a layered sound keep that "oceanic" vibe going strong. Dave Condon's tormented cries mix perfectly with the track as it builds, climaxes, and rebuilds again. The feeling is recurring throughout Mammal - you aren't going to escape from the depths anytime soon. "When The Sun Drowns In The Ocean" however is a bit more forgiving, and is ultimately kind of boring because of it. It's got a bit of noise, drone, and ambient mixed together with an operatic female-vocal intro and a (what I presume is a sample) chanting outro. However none of it really felt compelling and I find myself skipping over the track when I just wanna hear intense cascadian black metal, which is most of the time. Ambient tracks are a one-off for me. If they're gonna be there, they gotta comprise the whole album for me to enjoy it.

"All Life Converges To Some Centre" is the emotional conclusion to all of this, and it peaks with plenty of aggression. The last few minutes are more of an outro than anything, as distortion, reverb, and a simple noise-filled riff converge unto the end of the album. Quite a powerful outro if I may say so myself.

8.0 out of 10


1. Neptune is Dead

2. Feather and Bone

3. When the Sun Drowns in the Ocean

4. All Life Converges to Some Centre

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